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Not Biting

February 20, 2014

The first British massive open online course to offer students the option to pay for academic credit has ended, with none of its participants opting to fork out for official recognition.

The Edge Hill University MOOC, entitled Vampire Fictions, was announced in May last year and attracted about 1,000 students.

Of these, 31 reached the end of the course, with none opting to hand over the £200 ($330) that Edge Hill was charging in exchange for 20 credits at level 4 – the equivalent of a module on a first-year degree course.

However, course leader Ben Brabon, reader in English literature and digital education at Edge Hill, said that his “spooky MOOC” had been a success and had taught him a lot about the process of offering massive open online education.

“There was a sense [among the students] early on that this wasn’t like other MOOCs,” he said. “It required a bit more of the learner in terms of their critical engagement and in what was expected in terms of preparation.

“It might have been more worrying if we had accredited something like this and suddenly discovered that 1,000 students [had] completed it and wanted credit. If that happened, you might begin to question why we have prerequisites for degrees, why we have learning outcomes, if they are all so easily achievable.”

One of the 31 completing students did sign up for a three-year creative writing degree at Edge Hill, with fees of £9,000 (about $15,000) per year. They could have applied for their MOOC to be recognized for credit toward their degree, but opted not to do so.

“I think that they wanted a fresh start,” Brabon said, but added that the fact that credit was available could have played a part in the student’s decision to pursue a degree.

“The student had an extended taster session of what higher education was like, had a positive experience and demonstrated that they could cope with higher education, could engage critically at that level,” he said.

“Because of the credit on offer and because the course was benchmarked, they knew that what they were doing was at the [undergraduate] level.”

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